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The Setting of A Story

Have you ever read a horror story and felt very spooked? Or felt a fuzzy feeling while reading the buildup of a romance novel? The place where the story takes place always adds to the atmosphere and mood the writer wants to show. This place is called the setting of the story. 

The setting is not only used in stories but also in films, plays, novels to name a few. It is usually introduced at the beginning of the narrative or stories. It is introduced alongside the characters at the start. The setting in essence defines the ‘when’ and ‘where’. 

What is the setting of a story?

The setting is an element of literature used to state time and place. It is the main backdrop of what happens in a story.  It gives context to where the story takes place. There are many components in the setting of the story that describes the mood and the plot. They even add to the development of the character.

The setting can have a varied range. It can be anything from a fictional world to real-time periods and geographical regions. Settings also include landscapes, climate, social environment, cultural backgrounds. It can even be individual locations that the characters visit or frequent. 

The three types of settings

Settings are primarily divided into three types- temporal, environmental, and individual. 

Temporal setting

In simple words, it means when the story is taking place. It is the period when the action unfolds. Here, the time can be historical or modern. It can also be the time of the day, month, or year and it can be the change in seasons as well.

Environmental setting

The setting of the story can be subjected to change. Environmental settings mean the geographical location such as a particular area, country, or world. It can be set in a fictitious world too. Forces of nature such as weather and climatic conditions affect the setting as well. The environment also includes the social and cultural setting. If the story is set during war times, it will include the somberness and suffering during those times.

Individual setting 

Individual setting relates to the characters. This is the setting that surrounds the mood and the life of the characters. If the character is poor, then they will be set in a run-down house.

Story setting examples from Literature

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Dyle, this story is set in the moors of Baskerville halls in Dartmoor, Devonshire. A classic mystery novel featuring Sherlock Holmes and Watson, it is different than the usual set of London like the other novels. Away from his home in Baker Street in London, he attempts to solve the mysterious howls and deaths. The place seems more ominous and isolated and provides the perfect setting for horror. 

Harry Potter

The setting of this fantasy novel takes place in a fictional world where magic exists. The author, J.K.Rowling sets the story in the magical school of Hogwarts of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The story starts in the setting of a tiny room below the staircase in a house.

The protagonist Harry is introduced to living with relatives who treat him unfairly. He then finds out his true origins and shifts to attending Hogwarts. The main story of his adventures begins from there. 

Significance of the Setting of a Story

Without the setting in the story, the readers will be lost. They wouldn’t have an idea of where and when the story takes place. The setting is important for them to visualize how the events unfold. 

The setting is the background of the story. It deeply influences the characters and the plot. It contributes to their personality and often provides the reason why they act a certain way. The setting has a tremendous impact on the people and their reactions in the story. The setting brings out an emotional response among the readers.

The development of the story very much depends on the setting. It connects the elements and metaphorically links the theme to the story. 

How to use the Setting of a Story for best results

The setting of the story should fit the plot and serve its purpose. The setting should be such that the readers should be able to place it along with the plot. It should make sense to the readers. If the plot for the story is related to horror, then the setting should be someplace spooky and isolated. 

The setting should fit the actual story as well. The objects, people, and events should not feel out of place. It wouldn’t make sense for them to not be following the time and place. If the story is set in the middle ages, then the clothes and hairstyles should also see fit. It would be improper to make the character wear modern clothes in that setting.

The setting should fit with the character as well. Since the setting influences the mood of the character, it should align with them. If the main character is a lone wolf, then he/she will not have many friends and will be seen alone all the time.

What to include in a story setting? 

Knowing what to add to the story setting is very important since it influences every part of the plot. The core parts of the setting are the time, place, mood, and context.

  • Choosing the setting and getting the unique details right makes a lot of difference. 
  • Using symbolism and evoking all five senses of the reader.
  • Deciding the period which fits the story the best.
  • The atmosphere needs to be portrayed well.
  • All the elements of the story are necessary to be incorporated into the setting.
  • In a fictional setting, drawing a map will be helpful.

How to research the setting of the story?

While researching the setting of the story, there are various sources to take help from.

  • Doing online research through Youtube and National Geographic channels.
  • Using computer programs such as Google Earth to give an idea about the appearance of the earth.
  • Encyclopedias, newspapers, and photos are a great way for first-hand research.
  • Visiting the place in person always gives the best idea for the ideal setting.

The setting is an important literary device that moves the story along. Using key details in the setting makes it interesting and pulls on the reader’s mind. Without the setting, the plot would seem boring.

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